SATURDAY, Aug. 11, 2007 - Karen M. Tracey

Friday, August 10, 2007

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: none

Normally love Karen M. Tracey puzzles, but I'm finding this one particularly hard to love. I got brutalized, primarily by a couple of long foreign/insane names I just did not know. There was a boatload of obscurity in this puzzle, with few patches feeling smooth, and almost none of it feeling very fun. Also some iffy cluing. OK, first the good stuff:

27A: Fictional salesman of '80s ads (Joe Isuzu) - thank god for this gimme, or I don't know how I would have gotten off the metaphorical ground

20D: Mideastern news source (Al Jazeera) - the "J" in JOE ISUZU made this one easy, and it's a very sparkly answer. The "Z" helped me get ZIEGFELD ... sadly, it could not help me come up with ZIEGFELD's first name (more on that later)

52D: Cyborg's beginning? (robo-) is very clever, especially considering it's in near-symmetrical relationship to 13D: Science fiction author Greg (Egan) (I wanted BEAR here)

24D: Sex therapist's suggestion (Viagra) - like VIAGRA in the grid, but not sure about the clue. Is a "sex therapist" different from a doctor? Wouldn't a doctor be way, Way more likely to "suggest" this? In fact, wouldn't [Wife's suggestion] be way more realistic?

54A: Resident of Chinese highlands (giant panda) - by the time I got here, I was so beleaguered by obscure answers (see below) that I was looking for something Way more difficult than this ended up being.

16A: Gain or loss (yardage) and 59A: Relief pitcher Armando (Benitez) were two sports-related answers that helped me a lot. Also nice to have the oddly easy EVEL (53D: First name in motorcycling) in the puzzle.

19A: Where the African Union is headquartered (Addis Ababa) goes beautifully with 11D: Sportswear company whose logo is three parallel stripes (Adidas) - just as JOE ISUZU goes great with TRUST ME (17A: Line from a scam artist) and the [Jambalaya] clues complement each other as well (32D: OLIO, 58A: GRAB BAG).

4D: Best Supporting Actress of 1997 (Basinger) - I had BASI- and still couldn't get this for a while, which is very embarrassing, because I LOVE, and own, "L.A. Confidential."

1A: Whole _____ (shebang) - this gave me fits, but when I got it, I liked it

57D: Cousin of TV (Itt) - had ITT before I ever saw the clue and wondered what the hell it could be - turns out, it's a pop culture reference I actually understood

Iffy cluing:

46A: Firm wheel: Abbr. (pres.) - ugh. I mean, I see it, but ugh. "Wheel?" This is just intentionally shifty without being particularly clever (tho' the fact that I wanted EDAM is funny enough that I don't hate this clue as much as it warrants)

10D: Univ. class (Jrs.) - to be fair, I never actually saw this clue, but still, it's no good. Mushy misdirection. :(

21A: Headache intensifiers (dins) - this is extrapolating too much. Odors and bright lights are far, far more likely to intensify my headaches than DINS.

Guessing and / or Crashing...

36A: Biographical subject of the Best Picture of 1936 (Florenz Ziegfeld)

file under "Guessing" AND "Crashing." ZIEGELD was easy, but the first name remained elusive til the end. FLORENCE? FLORANN? FLO FLO FLO COME ON! I had errors spiking off this answer, most notably 34D: Co-star of Broadway's "Fanny" (Ezio Pinza) - WTF!? Look, Olde Tyme Entertainmente is not my cup of tea, and two such clues, long clues, intersecting at a "Z," with totally exotic names ... that's just not fair. To me. Total wipe-out. Sadly, I let the madness spread to other answers that I really should have nailed, namely 26D: Smart (dressy), where I had BRASSY (!?) and 25A: Dept. store stock (gds.) where apparently I had GBS, which is nothing I recognize.

50D: Virtual meeting of a sort (e-date) - apparently you can just put an "E" in front of anything now and it's a justifiable word. Yuck.

52A: 1988 chart-topping country album ("Reba") - actually not that hard, but I certainly didn't know it; inferred it.

51D: Patrick with a Tony (Magee) - whatever. No idea, and didn't help that it intersected with yet another (what is that, half a dozen now) prehistoric pop culture answer, 62A: McDonald's mascot before Ronald (Speedee).

44A: He beat Botvinnik in 1960 (Tal) - no part of this makes sense to me. I had HAL, because I confused Deep Blue with the computer from "2001: A Space Odyssey." Nevermind that I thought Deep Blue's name was Big Blue (the name for IBM). And nevermind that this gave me H-STRAP (44D: Pump alternative) when I had the correct T-STRAP just a couple days ago.

33D: Monkshood (wolfsbane) - just ... insanity. I managed to piece it together, but ugh.

38D: Like many a road map (foldable) - I had FOLDED UP, which ... well, you can imagine.

29D: _____ Corporation (jewelry retail giant) (Zale) - would have had a Lot of trouble were it not for the "Z" from JOE ISUZU. Wanted DEBEERS before I saw that I was dealing with just four letters.

Lastly, GREBE (7D: Relative of a loon) is just a stupid word - really, that bird should be embarrassed - and I don't think I knew that a group of NOMADS (6D: See 2-Down) is called a HORDE (2D: Group of 6-Down). Also forgot that Henry VIII had six wives. I somehow thought eight, and so had OCHO and even HUIT before I ever had SEIS (14D: Number of wives of Enrique VIII).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Orange 12:33 AM  

I like the GREBE, although I have to admit it's because I like the name, which I thought had two syllables but apparently there's just one. Look at the groovy swimmin' feet!

jlsnyc 12:49 AM  

yes, i had "folded up," too -- which nearly did me in... the florida portion was a killer and [sigh] required a google visit. "in bad" was hard-won and i'd utterly forgotten the recent "tstrap."

but everything else was a wow. all those "z"s -- fabulous. we gotta fill in some of your mid-20th century pop-culture, mr. p. shouldn't take much. "ziegfeld" and "pinza" (first names included) are far from deep obscurities. really. now "speedee" -- that's another story. ;-) omg -- and the chinese highland "sect" i was trying to suss out once "gian" emerged...

but all's well that ends well.

and so to bed.



Stephen 1:17 AM  

Unfortunately, FOLDEDUP crossing MRSPEED looked good for awhile. I also thought MCSPEED! The retro-styled McDonald's in Elysburg, PA has this guy all over the place.

Anonymous 2:35 AM  

It's nice that Ms. Tracy gave us old farts the advantage of knowing Ezio Pinza (the basso from the Met who became widely acclaimed by creating the role of Emile the planter in South Pacific and sang "Some Enchanted Evening") and Florenz Ziegfeld, he of the Follies fame.

On the other hand, Bazinger, Benitez, Magee, Reba all favored the short of tooth.

Rex Parker 6:39 AM  

Speaking of short of tooth, I am short one tooth this morning, having had one extracted yesterday. I'm still in icky, somewhat hazy discomfort, so maybe that tainted my solving experience.

And Janie, come on: ZIEGELD and PINZA are far from deep obscurities *if* you are ... of a certain age [wink] and have a *little* (read: a lot) of experience with Theater!

When I wrote in BENITEZ, I thought "well, that's just mean." I knew it, but you Really gotta follow baseball to know that guy's name. If I had to name 20 relief pitchers, his name wouldn't be on the list.

So, ANON. 2:35, I don't think youth has anything to do with being able to get BENITEZ (obscure to non-baseball fans, not old people in particular), or BASINGER (she's 56, been acting for 30 years), or REBA (she's 55, been recording for 30 years), or MAGEE (born in 1922, won his Tony - for playing the Marquis de Sade - in 1966, and Died Twenty-Five Years Ago; he was apparently in Kubrick's Clockwork Orange, which is the only chance I had of knowing him ... but no dice).


Rex Parker 7:18 AM  

No idea how this posting got double-posted, but it did, resulting in a split comments section - here is the one comment from the version of this post I deleted:

gk said...

I agree, this wasn't one-tenth the fun of the previous Saturday puzzle. The down entries 49, 50, 51 were forced junk which even now I don't understand. Too many abbreviations, prefixes, and the like.

Anonymous 7:39 AM  

I like your "forced junk" category. IN BAD for "on the outs" borders on the contemptible.

Thanks to Orange for those swimming feet which gave me an anthropomorphic giggle.


Mary 8:47 AM  

I am still giggling at myself for trying to use VIDEOS where the answer turned out to be VIAGRA (24d: Sex therapist's suggestion.)
Call me old-fashioned.

liebestraum 9:20 AM  

Rex -

Thanks for the rants on the clues. I was actually doing quite well but had major snags in the SE part of the grid.

I also tried Ezio LANZA for the longest time. I finally put in PINZA because well, just because.

And I never even knew McDonald's had a different mascot.


Karen 9:28 AM  

I messed up Enrique VIII also, I tried to fit in SEPT. Hated the FLORENZ/ENZIO cross, didn't know BENITEZ. The GIANT PANDA was a gimme from the A in AL JAZEERA, and OLESTRA jumped out at me too. Somehow WOLFSBANE came easily to me.

karmasartre 10:20 AM  

The SE and NE were torture for me.

Are EZIOPINZA and Mario Lanza the same person?

Interesting that the DVD box (or poster?) for "LA Confidential" pictures Kim and Kevin, when its key roles were played by Guy and Russell.

I knew SHEBANG right away. "The Whole Shebang" by Tim Ferris is nearing the top of my Should-Read pile, but I keep grabbing from the Mystery pile instead, so not sure if I'll ever get to it.

Rex - EDAM was a great, chuckle-inducing connection.

Pete M 10:28 AM  

I'm with you on FLORENZ/EZIO. Just plain nasty.

Mikhail TAL was one of the greatest chess players in history. His legendary attack game was true genius.

Orange 10:35 AM  

EZIO shows up in Monday and Tuesday puzzles. He's like OONA and UTA—a quasicrosswordese name, a Brian ENO, known to only a small segment of the public but familiar to inveterate crossword solvers.

I'd never heard of Armando BENITEZ, but the last name isn't unusual. If you've got four letters from the crossings, it's easy enough to guess the rest.

campesite 10:49 AM  

I had every letter in both of Ziegfeld's names but the first Z, and still couldn't pin it down. But now that I think about it, EZIO has been in puzzles before. I think there was a discussion in this space about OLESTRA.
I liked seeing VIAGRA in the grid, but I hope I never again see one of those lame male ED ads--will that pill really help me throw a ball through a tire from 40 feet when I'm sixty?

Rex Parker 10:53 AM  


I think it's a metaphor.



judgesully 11:23 AM  

Watch it, Campesite, with the tire throwing at 60 crack! Some of us near seniors are quite adept at putting objects through openings. Found much of this puZZle relatively benign due to recollections of days of yore, but the SE was a challenge due to the fact that I do not own any T-straps nor have I gone on an E-date.

Hobbyist 11:25 AM  

Started off as a cinch but...thought it was Florence Nightingale w a rebus for "night." All downhill from then with too many obscure and unteresting clues. Also had "edam" and "folded up" in mind.
Maybe this is sour grapes on my part but was willing to waste no more time on it today.

Jerome 11:36 AM  


Ya think? LOL

BTW, TAL used to appear in the puzzle on a regular basis back when EZIO PINZA wa starring on B/way in South Pacific.

jlsnyc 11:36 AM  

well it's true -- i have a healthy acquaintance with matters theatrical. but -- one doesn't have to had first-hand experience with these guys to have simply heard of 'em. ziegfeld died *well* before i was born! ;-)

i think a lot of solving of (one's own) obscurities comes down to what orange sez. [and reading...] even if you can't "guess" the rest, there's always walking away and coming back, when a fresh look will oftentimes yield an answer ya didn't think ya knew. "benitez"? not on my conscious radar. but playing around with the alphabet? a *big* help.

not that this helped in the se, but as i said in my previous post, that's another story!


janie (very definitely of "a certain age" [thank you for the delicate phrasing!] and soon to be sliding to a whole new category of solvers at the acpt. YIIIIKES!)

rock rabbit 11:53 AM  

Rex and Orange, you guys made me laugh 'til it hurt! I think GREBE is a great word, mb bc it rhymes with dweeb. THANKS for the grebe footage (hee hee, couldn't resist the pun).

Damon G. 12:48 PM  

Totally rocked this puzzle with the exception of the much-discussed Z junction of the two old-timey entertainers. Also wasn't sure if it was CFO or CEO. Plus, I had SPEEDER/MAGER which seems just as plausible for two things I had never heard of.

Everything else just flowed into place STJAMES, JOE ISUZU and BENITEZ were my savoirs. I agree Armando Benitez is a tad obscure, but sports fill like this is my counterpart to all the opera/broadway fill about which I haven't a clue, so it's always welcome. I also love seeing NOMADS in the puzzle, even if the cluing was terrible.

Is Damon a nomad? Si.

Jerome 1:44 PM  

Since it's a New York Times puzzle, and BENITEZ played for the Mets and against the Yankees (as a Met and an Oriole), should he be considered obscure?

Not to NY sports fans, anyway.

Anonymous 1:49 PM  

I live in the NW where both GREBEs and loons abound. That and SRTAS gave me SHEBANG.

Rex had BRASSY for smart. I had BRAINY, which also gave me the obscure GBS.

I am an old coot but never heard of ENZIO PINZA.

Patrick MCNEE (the Avengers) kept that corner a mystery. I forgot tonys are plays. Emmys are TV shows. If I went to more plays, perhaps I would have known ENZIO PINZA

Flor...Ziegfeld had me stumped too.

Don't shoot, but I kinda like the ZZ theme of today's puZZle.

(PS I loved VIDEO for VIAGRA..good one!)

Harleypeyton 1:55 PM  

Not to tough once you got started. And it helped that a number of the answers were old standbys...

Including, it's worth mentioning, both Tal and Pinza. Which in no way stopped me from trying 'Tony Danza' for a while. (Hey, he's working Broadway now, it could happen!)

Anonymous 2:10 PM  

Loved Joe Isuzu, but had Joe Camel for a long, hair-pulling stretch...the decades get a bit foggy. And just thinking about the side effects of Olestra and Viagra added to the fun.

Fergus 2:49 PM  

What an ungainly puzzle, though it had some redeeming elements. It was just a GRAB BAG, raggedly pieced together, but I did like finding one bit of SYMBIOSIS.

The Hero's welcome at 58A didn't seem right; the NOMAD HORDE was clumsy; the abbrv.s of ST. and MT. up in the NE bugged me (I am still a stickler for clue/answer consistency on abbreviations); the OIL clue at 39A was lame; and I'm sure WOLFSBANE could have been alluded to more cleverly. Could go on and on, but what I did like was FOLDABLE because it seemed to screw up so many of us. The Rodeo CLOWN was something I just learned last week. Mikhail TAL was fresh in my mind from some computer chess story in an old New Yorker that I grabbed at random.

Overall, Senor BENITEZ was perfectly emblematic of this puzzle. Only a month or two ago, the Giants were only too happy to get rid of this guy (even though he looked rather fierce, he blew save after save), and while I don't much care for the orange and black of San Francisco, I was pleased to see him depart as well.

And if this puzzle needed to call in another emblem, OLESTRA was warming up in the bullpen.

Fergus 3:11 PM  

Also the latest VIAGRA TV commercial is as comical as it is annoying. What are all those doing in the roadhouse? I would love to have some semiotician explain what's going on.

And I still don't get ITT as a Cousin of TV?

Jim in Chicago 3:12 PM  

I'm quite proud of myself for making good work of most of this puzzle, but I fell into many of the same traps as others. I actually began with ALJAZEERA, got JOEISUZU and ZIEGFELD (the FLORENZ came much later) from that and off I went. Filling in SRTAS at 1D let me to a total guess on ADDISABABA and the whole NW opened up for me. I also had FOLDEDUP (still hate FOLDABLE, what a horrid word) and tried very hard to get some combination of MRSPEEDY,saving the UP, but finally gave it up. I also stumbled on GIANTPANDA, thinking it had to be something much less obvious. Finally, like many others, I decided that Mario Lanzo had a brother Ezio, but no.

Anonymous 4:01 PM  

fergus: Cousin ITT of the Addams family....(mostly hair and glasses??)
T. in OP

green mantis 8:00 PM  

Did nobody else have "herds" for "horde"? See, it's not a lot of nomads, it's a group "of" nomads. Because nomads herd sheep and stuff. Don't they? So that screwed me royally in the NW, because herds works with Addis and Trust Me and Shebang, just not Rotator, which gave me hives. Could not be assisted by Etude, which I now assume is some sort of musical thing, but at the time wanted TaeBo or a made-up martial art like Akudo. Maybe Ejudo, which would be the art of defending oneself on the internet...

Lastly, wanted all kinds of abbreviated cheeses for the firm wheel, with gruyere (gruy) and brie (brie) as frontfunners. I know these aren't firm cheeses.

mellocat 8:14 PM  

Nice write-up even though the puzzle didn't quite delight you! I am surprised at the number of people who struggled with Ezio's full name. I've seen him enough in crosswords (usually just the first name in the grid, though his full name has been used a number of times in clues for BASSO or BASSI as well) that I thought he wouldn't be that tough for a late-week NYT. Anyway thanks for the comments, it's always interesting to read different people's takes on a puzzle.

jae 8:42 PM  

This one took a while! However, I did not have as much trouble with SE as some of you. Had FOLDEDUP for a while but when 46a PRES finally dawned on me TSTRAP (it was only yesterday in about the same grid position) became obvious which gave me SE in short order. My "its OK to ask my wife" rule confirmed my tentative Z in EZIO which is the last square I filled. Like Karen and anon 1:49 I thought it Mr. PINZA first name was ENZIO and was resisting the EZ.
I actually liked this puzzle more than many of you. It met my criteria of tough but doable. I've seen/heard the term EDATE and vaguely remember MAGEE. INBAD was the only thing that felt forced. Perhaps the EDAM errors came from the "supermarket wheel" clue a while back?

Fergus 8:48 PM  

Tres amusant, Mantis

green mantis 9:11 PM  

Hey Fergus--Can you teach me how to say "Hats are almost always a mistake" in French?

Fergus 10:29 PM  

Les chapeaux sont toujours ... ;, and yet you must have a joke entwined in that question ?

If it's a style issue, je dirais, "quand le soleil es si fort, je porterait un baseball cap, et puis je marcherais a la plage."

Fergus 10:35 PM  

... ou peut-etre je marchais la bas?

(Diacrictical figures lacking.)

Grammer and tenses welling up.

Anonymous 7:35 PM  

Can someone explain why "firm wheel: abbr." is "pres."? I'm stumped.

Rex Parker 7:56 PM  

"Wheel" is slang for an important person.

See seventh definition here.


Anonymous 2:18 PM  

Couldn't you say that the puzzle does have a theme ("Names that contain the letter z"} even though the answers to these clues don't show up symetrically in the grid?

kylo 10:58 AM  

This was a fun one, but I'm glad I wasn't the only one stymied by the intersection of two long names with difficult spelling. Guess I haven't been crosswording long enough to know Ezio!

Temporary derailments: wrote "joe camel" before seeing the collision with adidas, and much worse for me: I had a horde of naiads (confusion with Orpheus's pesky maenads, I guess). Naiads let me straight to "rollbar" (which I rather liked), which in turn prevented me from getting Basinger for a while, ironic since I too love/own LA Confidential!

Fiorenza Albert-Howard 9:05 PM  

Actually I found it very easy, done in less than 10 minutes, considering I am Italian and do the New York puzzle to improve my english vocabulary - I feel pretty good.
I immediately had AddisAbaba, Al Jazeera and Florenz Fiegfeld (probably because my name is similar and I remember people with name similar to mine). So everything else went in very fast.

rudiger 1:08 PM  

All the carping about the weak cluing and obscure answers has been done so all I can complain about, 40 days later, is that you, Rex, did not post a picture of SPEEDEE. I had never heard of nor have any idea what this mascot looked like.

I'm old enough to remember when going to a fast-food joint was a treat, not a regular, er, course of (eating) action. At least in my family, that is: we went to a place in NJ called Dutch Hut.

Anonymous 10:37 PM  

[url=]buy mexitil generic[/url]

  © Free Blogger Templates Columnus by 2008

Back to TOP